Black Gods of the Metropolis: Negro Religious Cults of the Urban North

By Arthur Huff Fauset | Go to book overview

IX
THE CULT AS A FUNCTIONAL INSTITUTION

REFERENCE has been made to the role of the Negro cult in relieving and releasing psychological tensions, particularly in the case of Negroes who are confronted for the first time with the problems of northern urban life. It would be natural for cult leaders to recognize the functional possibilities of the cult mechanism along various lines; in fact it would be difficult for them to eschew the temptation to accomplish various ends by means of the cult which under a different social order in our country would appertain to more secular institutions.

We are not surprised therefore to observe a diversity of activities in some of the cults which undoubtedly reflects such recognition on the part of the leading members. To express this tendency in more technical terms, it would appear that the normal social needs of the members of some of these groups, and particularly the need of leadership-expression in its various forms by the leaders and the more aggressive members of the cults, become transformed into derived cultural necessities and imperatives.1

Here again the differences in conditions of life for the individual Negro in the North and in the South appear to be reflected in the corresponding development of his institutional life. In the South it is not unusual to encounter Negroes who have amassed considerable wealth in business, particularly in real estate and insurance, in the trades, and in the professions. Since for them there is little cultural life, the resourceful Negroes are likely to engage in activities which prove economically fruitful.2

1 In the discussion of the cult as a functional institution, I am using the term in the sense in which it is employed by Malinowski. Cf. his article, “Group and the Individual in Functional Analysis,” American Journal of Sociology, XLIV (May 1939), 938–64.

2 John Dollard, in his valuable study Caste and Class in a Southern Town, has indicated the ways in which Negroes in the South are exploited economically by the white group, frequently reaching so far as to eliminate competition by the Negro middleman. Nevertheless it is almost a truism that until recently, with the concentration of enormous numbers of Negroes in northern metropolitan areas, the most significant economic strides by Negroes have been in the South.

-87-

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Black Gods of the Metropolis: Negro Religious Cults of the Urban North
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Introduction xvii
  • Author’s Note to the Paperback Edition xxiii
  • I - Negro Religious Cults in the Urban North 1
  • II - Mt. Sinai Holy Church of America, Inc 13
  • III - United House of Prayer for All People 22
  • IV - Church of God (Black Jews) 31
  • V - Moorish Science Temple of America 41
  • VI - Father Divine Peace Mission Movement 52
  • VII - Comparative Study 68
  • VIII - Why the Cults Attract 76
  • IX - The Cult as a Functional Institution 87
  • X - The Negro and His Religion 96
  • XI - Summary of Findings 107
  • Appendix A - Selected Case Materials 111
  • Bibliography 123
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